ME: In Relationship to the World

Psalm 77: 11-20
Galatians 5: 13-15
MATTHEW 18:1-5

June 28, 2020

While watching one of those old Warner Brothers’’ cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny and characters such as Tweety Bird who adorns my tie this morning; there was a playful singing of the song O Sole Mio … that became the cartoon’s theme. Rather than allowing the Neapolitan love song’s Italian words, written by Giovanni Capurro, to resonate across the cartoon screen with its original intent; the cartoonist twisted the Italian and turned it into an English phrase O SOLO ME – O.   Suddenly the song became one of selfishness and silliness rather than a love song about “my sun” or “my sunshine.”

<SUNG> ‘Ma n’atu sole cchiu bello oje ne. O Solo mio. Sta ‘nfronte a te!’’  Enough check out Pavarotti’s version but most of you know the song but probably not the lyrics.

The cartoonists changed the theme for humor but the realities, of the world we live in, find many, if not most of us, always striving to turn the world into self reward or self verification! O SOLO ME … do it for Dave … O SOLO ME – O ME ME ME … ME MINE … not YOURS and DEFINITELY NOT THEIRS! It’s MY WORLD … MY RICHES … MY WAY OR the PROVERBIAL HIGWAY perhaps some of you even hope that the others you reject end up ignored, beaten, and worn on the other side of Jericho’s Road where they will be ignored by the powerful.

Recently, you may have noticed that the voices and social media posters have been quickly finding really bad people on the other side of the issue of the day … allowing the posters and speakers to find comfort in denying there is an underlying problem across the land.  If there is one bad person on that other side … ALL must be bad and none must matter!   O SOLO ME – O

After watching the cartoon that was focused on ME ME ME … I glanced down on my wrist where those three weathered bands rest. Once again looking at the band with the simple word ONE on it.   Bono’s foundation … the concept of ONE world united and ONE world caring for all who hurt.  Bono’s reflection on his Christian faith’s call to love all. ONE is not about eagerly finding the bad players thereby giving permission to deny a group’s concerns but it is a statement of ONE versus ME.  And, frankly I started to think about the ME voices I have heard over the last three months.   It is so easy to be about me … the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in my freezer is clearly about me!

So, this morning I want each of us to consider, for ourselves, what the relationship is of our personal ME is with the world and with our faith walk with God. I don’t want any of us looking at the collective we associate with but only with the singular ME in relationship to the world.   An introspective sermon perhaps … another one of those challengers that I hope takes each of us out of our external comfort zones so that we can wrestle with our personal inner ME’s.

Yes, I realize that all of us have an external presence that at times actually reveals who we are but usually it is self-crafted and designed to allow us to fit in with the world in a way that presents a semblance of comfority with others.  The challenge of this pandemic, with its ongoing stretches of isolation, is that for some the deep dark inner ME’s are coming out.   Just look at those refusing to mask or even putting on their masks in ways  that don’t cover their mouths and noses presenting threats to all who are around them.  And, no … as proven in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and Yemen … heat does not slow down COVID 19.  It’s real and the quickly vanishing ICU beds in Houston are proof of that.

So, let’s use the Bugs Bunny version of this classic song  O SOLO ME … by yourself.  Who are you?  What is your personal assessment of your purpose in life; your goals; and your values?  Is God in the mix? Truthfully, outside of a Sunday service, are God and Jesus Christ in the mix of your thoughts and life goals? Not the ME interpretation of God that allows you to say that some of Jesus’ teachings just don’t apply nor does the Holy Spirit’s direction. Are you more comfortable in the world’s march?

What if you were suddenly really alone and only able to think about you, yourself, and your future?  This morning, I have two friends and fellow pastors who are lying in hospital beds, all alone, just a few miles from here.  One a young mom with two young children at home; she is in great pain having fallen down her parents’ steps. Her back broke and now they can’t control her pain; imagine having pain that “they can’t control.”  The other a wife, a mom, and a grandmom with amazing energy and faith.  She is striving to just move her fingers and toes on command.   They are alone each in a different way.  And, I am deeply saddened by their realities as they lie in beds in the same hospital where no one can visit … O SOLO ME .. OH.

Alone in their thoughts … with the sounds of ICU all around and masked strangers being their caregivers.  So, do you have the capacity today to be alone in your thoughts?  Don’t worry for a moment about those who are with you … just you, your thoughts, and God.

I want each of us to carefully consider the words Paul wrote to that early church in Galatia and you need to remember he wasn’t writing to a building adorned with a cross and stained glass windows. 21st century Americans are quick to consider “the church” as a building where all business of faith is conducted. A safe repository for the God messages that sadly don’t even seep out into discussions around very many family dinner tables.   We remember a 20th century guy who needed a CRYSTAL PALACE for his God and his Jesus but you never heard of matching funds from that church going to improve inner city schools where poverty was holding back yet another generation.

If your version of O SOLO MIO is wrapped up in pulling down your mask; letting go of safeguards; or even using your energy to identify reasons that condemn millions of people … you need to hear Paul.  If you are a person who cares about social justice and who invests in bringing people together as ONE … you need to hear Paul.  There is a reason we hold this book <<HOLDING UP THE BIBLE>> as being of value … if we are Christians … these are our guidelines; this is our connection with God’s instructions … so I am going to once again read what Charlie read and ask you to listen …

You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: “ Love your neighbor as yourself ”. But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other!”

YOU … and that means all of us who are ME’s when we first open our eyes in the morning.  We are called to FREEDOM.  I can just imagine how many people rub their hands together when they think of freedom thinking about all they can get for themselves … I am free free free … but Paul quickly puts the brakes on it for people of faith.  And, perhaps one of the most important verses of the Bible is this one in Galatians especially for the times we live in … especially for those pushing to crowd church buildings so they can get the hugs they want … perhaps for each of us in a way we know deep in our souls.

DON’T LET THIS FREEDOM … DON’T … LET THIS FREEDOM BE AN OPPORTUNITY to INDULGE YOUR SELFISH IMPULSES … Let’s stop there for a second.  The reality of humanity in the 21st century is no different than in Paul’s day … the worshiping of human beings and stuff is no different than in the days when Moses went on the mountain and Aaron succumbed to the pressure to make golden calves. God gave humanity freedoms that humanity has always abused and misused going against God’s love .. God’s call … AND …

DO YOU WANT TO BE THE ONE WHO SAYS ME ME ME ME … and God you can be an afterthought?  Are your selfish ambitions whether it is money, politics, power, or self indulgences the freedom you choose because if that is who your inner me is identifying as who you are then you have failed Paul’s call to follow God’s directives.

And, Paul continues and again this is why to me this collective of verses is so important in Scripture.  Paul is reflecting Jesus and God’s directives and clarifying them for an early church but also for 21st century church attenders and for church attenders who really have made an active decision to follow Jesus and believe.  “SERVE EACH OTHER WITH LOVE; All the law has been fulfilled in a single statement “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBORS as yourself.”   Paul finishes up these comments by editorializing on the realities of 21st century America … “But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other!”

Our church did a survey and the vast majority of those answering really weren’t interested in any kind of Bible study.  Of course some said they would consider it but the real answer was no … not enough time …. Get enough in the hour on Sunday … whatever.

These last few weeks have been challenging … I have wanted to scream as I have heard people say vile things about other human beings so that they could defend themselves or their positions and privileges.   People … friends have justified the knocking down of an old man or the pulling a college student off a bike and beating him or spraying a substance banned by the Geneva Conventions into people’s faces.

But, I also have rediscovered that the ME inside needs to be strengthened by the love of God that is universal and available to all.   The ME inside needs to have a Jesus-driven relationship to the world out there!   Jesus talks about “turning our lives around.”

Ok, Jesus actually says if we don’t turn our lives around we won’t see the kingdom of heaven.  You see friends … it’s a bit more than we want to admit.  Micah talked about walking humbly in our lives “The Lord God has told you, human one what is good and what the Lord requires from you: ‘to do justice, embrace faithful love, and to walk humbly with your God.”  And, this morning we heard Jesus teach us “Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in heaven.”

So, in this world of me, mine and not yours … God has given us a gift through His Son Jesus Christ.  A gift that transforms our lives here on earth if we believe … a gift that provides eternal life in heaven when this time is done … a gift that focuses on all humanity and ONE world rather than a divided and divisional place where sides are taken and those on the other side put down.  The Psalmist says, “I will remember the Lord’s deeds … yes I will remember your wondrous acts from times long past.  I will meditate on all your works!”

Are you remembering?  Meditating and are you ready to declare today that God’s way is the way to holiness and heaven?  That’s Jesus directives are your way of living life?

The song’s English translation has these words but I am going to tweak them today because I hope you believe as I do … BUT ANOTHER SON (Jesus Christ) that’s brighter still … It’s my own SON that’s in your face too!  The Son (God’s Son); Jesus … He’s in your face … O SOLO MIO …


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